Notable Books

Notable Books 17


A good book is like an apple…once you start….

Decker, Ronald. The Esoteric Tarot: Ancient Sources Rediscovered in Hermeticism and Cabala. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2013. Pp. xi + 330. $23.95.

 

This book is not Theosophical in the sense of relating to the Theosophical Society, though it is theosophical in a more general sense. The author comments: “I feel certain that the Tarot designers were aware of the entire Hermetic theosophy. In my view, they used images, numbers, and symmetries to accommodate three systems — astrological, arithmological, mystagogical — each with a complete program, always enlisting all of the trumps” (p. 10).

The book is wide-ranging and exhaustive, almost to the point of exhaustion. It is a great improvement over the sort of popular books on the tarot, which are all too frequent. But its extensiveness and detail reminds one of the story of the little boy who went to his neighborhood library and told the librarian that he wanted a book all about snakes, so she brought him a 1000-page encyclopedia of herpetology. The boy said, “Thank you, but that’s more all about snakes than I wanted to know.”

The book, which is basically very impressive, has a number of problems that better editing could have avoided. It uses with great frequency an abbreviation “T de M” for “Tarot of Marseille” (one of the early decks); a more perspicuous short form would have been helpful. It uses a technical term “tetramorph” for a symbolic figure of any of the four evangelists, although properly the term refers to “a composite figure combining icons of all four evangelists.” Intrusive auctorial “I,” “my,” etc. is frequent (see the quotation from p. 10, above); the best expository style keeps the expositor out of the text.

In sum, this is a good book that could have been better with more professional editing by the publisher.

Genelli, Lyn and Tom. Death at the Movies: Hollywood’s Guide to the Hereafter. Quest Books. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 2013. Pp. [vi] + 212. $16.95.

This is an unusual book — thorough, well-written and readable — on a pair of subjects not often linked together. It explores the subject of death in films beginning with It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and ending with an all-time favorite, The Wizard of Oz (1939), chronologically spanning the decades of the 1930s to the 2010s.

Death is a subject treated by Theosophical writers from the earliest days of the modern movement until the present. It is, therefore, all the more surprising to find no references in the volume to Theosophy or Theosophical writers; that is a serious lacuna, for both the subject of the book and its publisher.

Recently, the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, seems to be avoiding the subject of Theosophy in its books. That avoidance reminds one of the saying of Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”

 

 

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